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Water for Elephants Audiobook
Water for Elephants
Written by: 
Sara Gruen
Narrated by: 
David LeDoux, John Randolph Jones
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Water for Elephants Audiobook

Water for Elephants

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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Two narrators weave together strands of a story spanning decades. David LeDoux portrays the lead character in his twenties and John Randolph Jones is the same character 70 years later. Both are excellent, but Jones' rough bass filled my head with the joys and pain felt by the old man, in a way that the voice I hear when I read to myself could never have done. One of the most outstanding audiobooks I've ever heard! —Beth Anderson

Publisher's Summary

An atmospheric tale of life and love in a Depression-era traveling circus.

Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets the freaks, grifters, and misfits that populate this world. Jacob introduces us to Marlena, beautiful star of the equestrian act; to August, her charismatic but twisted husband (and the circus' animal trainer); and to Rosie, a seemingly untrainable elephant.

Beautifully written, with a luminous sense of time and place, Water for Elephants tells of love in a world in which love's a luxury few can afford.

©2006 Sara Gruen; (P)2006 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award, Adult Fiction, 2007
  • Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, Unabridged, 2007

"Water for Elephants resembles stealth hits like The Giant's House, by Elizabeth McCracken, or The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, books that combine outrageously whimsical premises with crowd-pleasing romanticism. . . . With a showman's expert timing, [Gruen] saves a terrific revelation for the final pages, transforming a glimpse of Americana into an enchanting escapist fairy tale.” (New York Times Book Review)

"Just like a circus, the magic of the story and the writing convince you to suspend your disbelief." (Booklist)

"Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes, and freaks who populate her book." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (16982 )
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4.4 (9151 )
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4.5 (9072 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Troy 02-03-09
    Troy 02-03-09 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    239
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Genuine Story"

    The use of two narrators to portray the character at different times in his life is brilliant. Warning, you will cry.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori 01-30-09
    Lori 01-30-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    231
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    202
    45
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    8
    21
    Overall
    "Wonderful!"

    This is one of the best books I've ever read. Actually, I listened to this one and the narrators had me captivated from the very beginning and their narration really added a wonderful dimension to the book. I've talked with others who read it and enjoyed it but weren't as overwhelmed by it as I was, so I'm not sure if it was just the timing of when I read it or the audio version that made it so enjoyable for me. It felt sort of like a "Green Mile" at the circus.

    There were a couple of sex scenes that were too detailed for me and some language I could have done without, but the story had me engrossed from the very beginning. I see why Audible voted this "Best Audio Book of 2006."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sally Davis RUSSELL SPRINGS, KY, United States 01-29-09
    Sally Davis RUSSELL SPRINGS, KY, United States 01-29-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    3
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    Overall
    "Wonderful"

    I found myself unable to stop thinking about these characters as I finished this book. I loved the two different narrators for the separate ages of Jacob.

    Just a beautiful story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Highland Village, TX, USA 01-23-09
    Kathleen Highland Village, TX, USA 01-23-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    49
    9
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    0
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    Overall
    "Great listen"

    Author and narrator both did a great job. I loved the character in both his youth and as a crotchety old man.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin West Bountiful, UT, United States 01-16-09
    Robin West Bountiful, UT, United States 01-16-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    122
    17
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    2
    Overall
    "Great book"

    I loved everything about this book and would recommend it highly to anyone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill austin, TX, United States 01-12-09
    Bill austin, TX, United States 01-12-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    148
    6
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    0
    0
    Overall
    "My new Favoritist Book Audiobook...EVER!"

    I was a huge fan of the TV Show "Carnivale" and that is the feeling I got from this (sans the supernatural). The characters were engaging and the narrators were cast perfectly.

    I never would have downloaded this book if it hadn't been #1 for 2006. Thanks to Audible to pointing this one out to me!

    I just finished it, and I may listen to it again before moving to a new book.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leslie Greenwood, IN, United States 01-02-09
    Leslie Greenwood, IN, United States 01-02-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    160
    6
    FOLLOWERS
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    1
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent narration!"

    The narration of "Water for Elephants" is truly one of the best I have heard! Both narrators are outstanding, adding so much depth to each "side" of the main character. This is a wonderful book on its own, but I am so glad I listened to it rather than reading the paper copy. The performers really added to my enjoyment of the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hannah berlinGermany 12-31-08
    Hannah berlinGermany 12-31-08
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    1
    Overall
    "easy on the ears- no surprises"

    This book is a good one to listen to if you aren't looking for anything too challenging. It's not a heavy book- the story follows a pretty predictable trajectory. It's a love story. I am not saying this is a bad thing- sometimes it is exactly what I want to hear. The narrators were easy on the ears and added a lot to the characters without over-acting (although the narrator's female voices were a bit silly). Historic elements were well-researched which added a bit of richness (if you liked Stewart O'Nan's "circus fire", this is a good fictional companion to it). I would put this book on the "entertaining-story-to-listen-to-while-doing-something-slightly-banal-but-requiring-a-degree-of-mental-activity" shelf. Not quite enough meat for "road-trip-through-desert-country", more suitable for "re-apholstering-the-sofa" or "knitting-something-only-slightly-more-complicated-than-mittens"sections of the library.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Stephens Williamsburg, VA USA 12-23-08
    C. Stephens Williamsburg, VA USA 12-23-08 Member Since 2007

    The 25-Hour Mom

    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    71
    4
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "water for the soul"

    This book came together in so many ways. The narrators were excellent. It didn't bother me that the book went back and forth between the two time periods. It was well done. I hope my mind is as sharp at 90 (or 93).

    Some books you never want to end, some you can't finish, and some don't end ... they just stop. This one could not have had a more perfect ending ... and I never saw it coming. It was a wonderful surprise.

    This was the best listen I've had all year.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendy COFFS HARBOURAustralia 12-21-08
    Wendy COFFS HARBOURAustralia 12-21-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    24
    12
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    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "wendygai"

    a great story, beautifully written and narrated

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Suzannah
    Nottingham, United Kingdom
    8/16/11
    Overall
    "Water for Elephants"

    Both strangely exotic and nostalgically familiar, this tale of tenderness found in the harsh reality of circus life and enduring love stolen from cruelty is captivating and entrancing. Told through the eyes and voices of an old timer and his younger self, it flips from past to present and back again with ease and manages to bring two stories together with equal strength and interest. A beautiful story that is beautifully read by the narrators.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Fran
    LONDON, United Kingdom
    8/30/11
    Overall
    "wonderful!"

    I listened to this for a second time when I had exhausted my new supply while away.
    And it was just as enthralling as the first listen.

    Brilliantly written and wonderfully read by the two readers.
    I can't recommend it highly enough - one of the best audibles I've listened to.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Kelly
    7/5/11
    Overall
    "A true love story"

    A true love story written to thrive in the 21st Centry, from the charactors to the plot line its well written and addictive.........

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    Swindon, United Kingdom
    11/15/11
    Overall
    "The film does not even get close."

    I could not put this book down.
    I remember exactly where I was when things happened in this book.
    The character of the old man is explored to the fullest extend, this character made the story, and was completely overlooked in the film version.
    Perfect for a holiday, or summer commutes, as I did.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • w
    east horsley, United Kingdom
    11/7/11
    Overall
    "loved it"

    Unusual subject and not one I would normally choose. It made me laugh and cry. Brilliant. Do read it

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Claire
    Yate, United Kingdom
    10/30/11
    Overall
    "Absorbing"

    I wasn't sure if I was going to like this audiobook when I started listening to it as I found the hopping between the current and past a little hard going and the older person's voice difficult to understand at times. But, I'm glad I perservered with it. The story is very original and draws you in. Worth a listen

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • joanna
    Bingham, United Kingdom
    10/2/11
    Overall
    "Wonderfully engaging Big Top Book"

    This book tells the story of a young man thrown into the life of a circus worker after his parents are killed. The wonderful transition between times takes the listening into two very different but equally compelling settings. Brilliant !!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • holly bird
    6/30/11
    Overall
    "Great Original Story"

    Great to read an original book for a change. I knew nothing about the american circus trains, and now I do! Takes place during the American Depression. The love story is a bit lame but otherwise a terrific listen.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Annie
    Derby
    10/22/10
    Overall
    "I Loved it!"

    A really enjoyable listen, on a par with 'The Help'. This has been one of those books I couldn't wait to get back to; it was really well structured and well read, I was thoroughly entertained the whole way through. I highly recommend this audiobook.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Madgey
    7/18/11
    Overall
    "Enjoyed every single second …."

    It left me wanting more…. I did not want the story to end. I laughed and cried. This is a tale simply told, an account that was both funny & sad, on times illustrating the cruelty inherent in some human beings and the goodness of others. The narration was outstanding, it brought the wonderful characters to life and I could really see them through ‘Jacobs’ eyes. It also made me think about the value we place on our elderly population. Can’t wait to watch the film, hope it lives up to the book.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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